How to Choose a WordPress Theme: 15 Helpful Things to Know (Ultimate Guide)!

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Are you starting a WordPress website or want to upgrade your current WordPress theme for your blog?

Maybe you’re looking for a theme that’s more in line with your personal style or one that better suits the purpose of your blog.

Trying to find a theme that will represent your brand can be tough without knowing what to look for.

Choosing a WordPress theme is a personal choice because the one you choose needs to be aesthetically impressive, load fast, and help your site rank higher on search engines.

With everyone using their phones to search for information, it also needs to be a responsive theme that looks and functions perfectly on mobile devices.

How to Choose a WordPress Theme: 15 Helpful Things to Know (Ultimate Guide)!

In this article, we are going to show you how to choose a WordPress theme the right way, one that’s perfect for you.

Let’s get started!

Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. Please read my Disclosure for more information.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Will your website be a standard, information-style blog, a portfolio that will have many photos, or an eCommerce site for selling merchandise?

What will your blog be about? Personal? Business? Travel? Photography?

WordPress themes are popular because you can find a theme for nearly any type of website you want.

If you can’t find an existing theme that suits your needs, you could always go for a multipurpose theme, which, as the name suggests, can be adapted to multiple types of websites.

For example, the Astra theme, Kadence theme, and Divi theme, all offer pre-built demos for a variety of topics and businesses.

Beyond finding your niche, also consider what visual style you want. Do you prefer the clean lines of a blog theme or something a little more traditional?

By answering these questions, you will be able to better focus your search.

After finding some WordPress themes that interest you, use the following more specific questions as a guide to determine if your chosen theme will help lead your website to success.

What Makes a Good WordPress Theme?

In general, premium themes offer better quality than free themes; however, this does not mean that every paid theme is perfect.

Common Traits of Popular WordPress Premium Themes

WordPress themes come in two types: specialized and multipurpose.

For example, if you work in the food industry, you could use a niche-based theme like a restaurant theme.

A multipurpose WordPress theme can be a great choice for virtually any type of site.

All of the BEST WordPress premium themes will have the following qualities and characteristics:

  • Responsive Design (Mobile Ready): These WordPress templates are not only mobile-friendly but also retina-ready. So whether your website is being viewed on a desktop computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, it will always look fantastic.
  • Build for Speed and Performance: Your website’s loading speed is determined by the theme you select, so be sure to choose a theme that is light and well-made.
  • Optimized for SEO: The WordPress premium theme has been created with the most current SEO standards to increase your website’s visibility in search results.
  • Page Builder Compatibility: The theme is designed to use with some of the more popular WordPress drag-and-drop page builders.
  • Great Customer Support: The best themes have documentation and easy-to-follow instructions for support and updates and are backed by a great team.

Now that we’ve covered the standard characteristics of the premium WordPress theme let’s cover some basics.

Below are features that are important to consider before investing money into a new theme.

A common question asked is whether it’s worth paying for a Premium WordPress theme or if you can get away with using a free theme.

How to Choose a WordPress Theme

1. Does the Theme Meet Your Specific Needs?

Before you start looking for a template, determine what features you need based on the type of content you’ll be sharing.

Your blogs design should be aesthetically pleasing and easy to read, allowing your content to take center stage.

Glancing at the blogs you already read and love can give you some insight into which layouts are your favorite:

  • When browsing your favorite sites, be sure to take notes for what’s pleasing about the theme.
  • Get an idea of the design you’re looking for, then keep searching until you find a WordPress theme that has all the features you need for your perfect blog layout.
  • Be sure to always keep your readers in mind when making decisions for your blog. For example, if you have a wedding photography blog, sections for big, beautiful photos should be a top priority.
  • If you would rather focus on the writing than the visuals, choose a theme that is not as photo-centric.
  • One thing to keep in mind when picking a theme, there are thousands of WordPress plugins that can be used to complement themes, changing the look and feel of the theme.

Additional Thoughts

It’s important to not just base your decision on the design of a theme’s main demo page.

Things to Consider:

  • The look of the Home page
  • The Blog Post layout
  • The default Fonts used (which can be changed)
  • The layout of the Headers and Footers, along with the Navigation
  • The layout of the Sidebar?

Check each page out thoroughly and play around with it as if you were a visitor.

To avoid any confusion later, make sure the theme you choose has everything you love within the design.

2. Is the Theme Responsive to Mobile Devices?

With technology constantly evolving, there really’s no reason why your blog shouldn’t be a mobile-friendly, responsive design when you choose a WordPress theme.

Is the Theme Responsive to all size screens including Mobile Devices?

A responsive design automatically changes your theme so that it optimizes for different devices (such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop).

For the first time in October 2016, mobile Internet use surpassed desktop, according to StatCounter, with more than 50% of search traffic coming from a mobile device or tablet.

If you want your visitors to stick around and read your blog, you need to make sure it’s optimized for smaller devices.

The majority of WordPress themes will have it displayed on their site whether or not the templates are responsive themes, it’s a selling point, so why wouldn’t they?

However, not every responsive design is created equal.

Even if a theme automatically adjusts to look good on different devices, that doesn’t mean it will look good on all devices.

test your website design with tools like Responsive Design Checker, or view the demo on your smartphone.

Be sure to check your theme on a mobile device for things like:

  • What the menu looks like and how it works
  • The layout of your blog itself – is it easy to read?

You’ll always want to ensure that your WordPress website is user-friendly, regardless of the device someone is using.

There’s another test that you can do for yourself; it’s something I’ve done often to check my own site to see how it reacts.

If you’re using a laptop or desktop and you want to see if the WordPress theme is mobile responsive, grab the side of the screen with your mouse and simply drag your browser window to make it smaller and watch how the theme responds.

If you drag your browser window smaller, and nothing happens, it’s time to walk away from that WordPress theme because it won’t work properly on smaller devices.

3. Is the Theme Highly Customizable?

One approach many people look for is a pre-made blog theme that is a blank canvas so they have more creative freedom.

Although it may be appealing to choose a template that comes with beautiful graphics included in the header and footer, it’s important to consider how well your own content will fit into that pre-made layout.

By utilizing graphics that match your own branding, you can create a website that’s unique to you and doesn’t look like everyone else’s.

The best pre-made themes are minimalistic, allowing your content to direct the look and feel.

By editing the colors, fonts, and uploading your logo, you can create a page that is one-of-a-kind and personal to you.

Many WordPress themes now come with the ability to use page builders such as Divi, Elementor, and Beaver Builder, just to name a few.

If you find the theme you like is adaptable for the use of these builders, the sky is the limit on your blog theme creation.

Some of these builders are user-friendly right out of the box, but you always have the option to outsource your work to a freelancer that is skilled at using these builders.

See how the theme is used on other websites to judge its potential for adaptation. If the sites listed have compatible structures but differentiated styles, then you may have found a quality option.

4. Is the Theme Easy to Use?

If you’re planning on installing your theme by yourself, be sure to read the installation instructions carefully. Additionally, it’s worth checking out what kind of support is available for users before making a purchase or downloading a free theme.

Consider purchasing from a reputable site that offers help with installation, so you don’t have to worry about any issues!

5. Does the WordPress Theme Load Quickly?

Fast page loading doesn’t just improve the UX (user experience) of a website, but it also improves search engine ranking, conversion rates, and online revenue.

Does the WordPress Theme Load Quickly?

The theme you choose for your WordPress website is going to have a big impact on its overall performance.

Themes that are too big and bloated will make your site load slowly, while optimized themes will ensure that it loads quickly.

With so many choices available, how do you determine which theme is right for you and your blog?

If you don’t already own the WordPress theme, it’s tough to run a speed test.

In order to fix a problem, we must first understand it. So, what causes slow page speed on a website?

Here are 3 factors:

  • Too Many Bells & Whistles – Too many sliders, preinstalled plugins, and animations can be harmful to fast loading speed. A WordPress theme that requests too many JavaScript files will bog down a site.
  • Large File Formats – It’s best to avoid themes that rely heavily on full-width images and background videos. Stick with the theory, less is more!
  • Poor Coding. – From images that are too large to inline CSS injection, bad coding can severely affect website performance. Maintaining an updated theme is important, as outdated code can lead to a number of issues.

If you want to figure out how bloated a theme is, use the Pingdom Website Speed Test.

All you have to do is enter the URL of a theme’s demo. Then, check to see how long it takes for the page to load, the file size, and how many HTTP requests are made.

A good rule of thumb is that fewer files/HTTP requests will equal a better theme.

 

Here are a couple of sites that have put some of the more popular WordPress themes to the test:

Kinsta’s – Fastest WordPress Themes Test

HubSpot’s – Speed Test for the Fastest WordPress Themes

If you have an existing WordPress site, you can use a WordPress plugin to test themes through your site without disrupting your existing website and theme.

The WP Theme Test plugin is designed for administrators who want to test out new WordPress themes without affecting the live website. This way, your visitors will see the same old theme design while you test out a new one.

6. Is the Theme SEO-Friendly Right Out of the Box?

Having an SEO-friendly WordPress theme requires a few specific elements.

A theme with clean code is ideal, as it will ensure that your SEO plugin can optimize your site properly and Google won’t have any issues crawling it.

Install a WordPress theme that doesn’t just add schema markup to your site but helps you optimize it for better search visibility.

7. Is The Theme Translation Ready?

If you’re hoping to have a multilingual website, be sure that your theme can accommodate different languages.

Theme developers typically communicate whether or not a theme is prepared for translation. For example, when users access a translation-ready WordPress theme, they’ll also receive the .po and .mo files, which are files to ease the process of translating content.

For RTL languages (languages read from right to left), make sure that the theme also supports the RTL text.

8. Does It Offer Plugin Integration?

If you have a specific goal for your website, such as an online store or an educational course, it’s best to choose a theme with dedicated support for the software you need.

As an example, if you’re wanting to create an online course, LifterLMS and LearnDash are two of the best plugins to use, but they would probably need to add your own custom CSS to make the site look right.

If you want an effortless solution, choose a theme that offers specific integrations for both LearnDash and LifterLMS. This way, your courses will look fantastic without any extra work from you.

9. Does It Support WordPress Customizer?

The WordPress Customizer is incredibly useful, as it allows you to change your theme in real time and with ease.

Does It Support WordPress Customizer?

Years ago, themes used to have a separate non-visual interface to manage settings. That’s not an efficient way of doing things anymore, and today’s theme should support the WordPress Customizer.

After you’re done scrutinizing the theme’s demo and feature list, it’s time to check out the reviews and how often the theme gets updated.

10. Does the Theme Have Good Reviews?

Perhaps this is self-evident, but one of the most foolproof methods to determine a theme’s quality is by reading reviews from other users who have purchased and experienced its user-friendliness, ease of installation, loading speed, etc.

Does the Theme Have Good Reviews?

Many, if not most, of the top theme marketplaces will show public user reviews. For example, you can find reviews of WordPress themes on its official website.

It’s a good idea to check the reviews before picking a theme for your website. You can usually find this information in the Help or Support section of the developer’s site.

Before you purchase a theme, always check the reviews. If people are generally happy with the product, then it’s likely a great choice.

However, if customers are complaining about installation issues or struggling to get the theme to work properly, it might be best to look elsewhere.

NOTE: It’s not enough to go strictly by the rating number next to the stars, you should also read customer feedback in order to get a better idea of what the theme is like, including its strengths and weaknesses.

11. Does the Theme Have A Good Reputation?

Premium theme developers will usually release multiple themes or WordPress products.

If a theme doesn’t have many reviews, try to see how reputable the developer is by looking at how successful their other products are.

12. Does the Theme Developer Offer Good Support?

Always choose a theme with excellent customer support in case you need help down the line.

Make sure to check the support policy so that you know the following:

  • How long the support is for (normally 1 year)
  • What is the method of support; email, form, or support ticket?
  • Which issues does the support policy cover?

For example, some theme developers will only offer public support forums, while others will give you the option for private one-on-one support.

It’s important to be aware of this before making your decision because it will affect what type of help you can expect to receive.

13. Does the Theme Receive Updates Regularly?

The WordPress Core Software is frequently updated, many times once every couple of months, sometimes more, so it’s critical that your theme’s developer also keep the theme updated.

Most marketplaces publicly display this information. For example, WordPress.org will include it on every theme’s page.

Does the Theme Receive Updates Regularly?

You should avoid themes that haven’t been updated in the last six months. The majority of developers release updates every couple of months.

The moral of the story – always check a theme’s update history before making a purchase.

14. Does The Theme Offer a Knowledge Base or Documentation?

After purchasing a theme, you shouldn’t have to rely on customer support for every little issue – it can be time-consuming and frustrating.

Does The Theme Offer a Knowledge Base or Documentation?

Many times, you can easily solve an issue by yourself with the help of the theme’s documentation.

However, this is only as good as the documentation, so before you buy, look into it to see whether the documentation covers everything you need.

If you’re someone who likes to learn by watching, then video tutorials that some themes offer are an amazing perk.

15. Does The Theme Have an Active Community?

Themes that are of high quality will usually have groups of users that can also be helpful. You can usually find communities on YouTube or Facebook, and quite possibly, the theme has its own forum.

If your theme has an engaged community, it’s definitely a great addition, even though it isn’t required.

Usually, if the theme has a large and active community, it most likely means that the theme will continue to receive updates and improvements.

Free vs Premium WordPress Themes

Premium themes are not automatically better than free themes. There are both high and low-quality examples of each type of theme.

Themes usually have a free lite version and sometimes also come with a premium Pro version.

For example, the Astra and Kadence themes have both options, you can either download the free version from WordPress.org or extend the functionality of the free version by opting for the premium option.

There is no difference in code quality or optimization between the free and Pro versions, they both use the same core theme.

But if we had to make a few generalizations, we’d say there are several reasons you should consider the premium version of a theme.

In the past, quality was often synonymous with a high price tag. However, free themes have improved in recent years and are now, in some cases, just as good as their expensive sidekicks.

Although in the past it was difficult to find quality free themes, there are now thousands of amazing developers in the WordPress community who create top-notch themes.

Free themes have some advantages and disadvantages, while premium themes also come with a few benefits and drawbacks of their own.

Pros & Cons of Premium Themes

Pros

  • Updates – One big reason to go for a premium theme is that they tend to get updated more frequently. As our world becomes more and more digital, it’s necessary to have a theme that’s updated frequently to address new security issues.
  • Design Elements – Premium themes are usually much more flexible, allowing you to create your very own look, making your website stand out more.
  • Documentation – Most premium themes include a detailed PDF explaining how to get the most out of them. Such documentation is less common with free themes.
  • Support – Premium theme developers will typically offer the best support, which generally comes in the form of a public forum, live chat, or an email ticketing system. For free themes, support is usually only available through a public forum.

Cons

  • Premium Cost – A premium theme will cost you between $35 and $150 or more.
  • Learning Curve – Many premium themes include a custom administration panel with various settings that can take time to learn and configure.
  • Unnecessary Features – Premium themes usually come with a lot of features, like multiple slider plugins, a portfolio manager, and extra skins. Although these qualities make a theme more diverse, it many times will include unwanted features.

The most important thing to look for in a theme, regardless of cost, is quality and attention to detail. The better the code is written, the faster the website will load and the more secure it will be.

To see if a theme is high quality, simply read customer reviews. If the theme has a public support forum, check to see what types of issues people are having and how quickly the developers respond.

Be Careful with the Theme That Does Everything!

Here’s one thing you want to be careful doing! Don’t pick a theme that includes every single feature possible.

It’s tempting to find a theme that can do everything without needing any third-party plugins, but that’s really not a good idea.

Themes are not designed to add functionality to your website- that’s what WordPress plugins are used for. Many features are better left to plugins.

Our thoughts:

  • The extra price you pay for premium themes often gets you better integrations and more customization options because the developer can invest more time into perfecting those details.
  • With a paid theme, you’ll usually receive 12 months of premium support. Although some developers do provide support for free themes, it’s not always the case. Paying customers will usually receive more attention from customer service.
  • If a theme developer has continuous income from the paid theme, they are more likely to keep developing it, which will usually mean you’re theme will be around for many years to come.
More WordPress Themes > > 15 Best WordPress Themes for Bloggers & eCommerce Store Owners

Where to Find Free WordPress Themes

If you’re looking for a free theme, the main Theme directory has plenty that you can download and install yourself.

With so many online templates, it’s tough to know where to start.

A good place to start would be the Free WordPress Theme directory through WordPress.

WordPress Themes Directory

Here is the link to get you started: WordPress theme directory

The WordPress.org theme directory offers a range of customization options for narrowing down your choices, including filters for features, layout, and the type of website you have in mind.

To filter the results, click on “Feature Filter“, checkmark what you’re looking for, then click “Apply Filters,” which will give you your results.

Using the “choose a WordPress theme” checklist, you now know what to look for and where to start your search. It’s essential to remember that you can always change your theme later on if you need to.

Pick a theme that matches your current content and business, but don’t worry too much about your decision since you can always change it later.

Your website is a reflection of you and your business. Invest in something that has good design and that you can put your own spin on to make it unique.

More WordPress theme choices > > Best WordPress Themes for Bloggers

Conclusion: How To Choose A WordPress Theme You’ll Love

With all of the WordPress themes available around every corner, it can be tough to decide which one is right for your blog.

Just remember, the theme you choose can always be changed down the road if you end up wanting something different.

The most important thing is to look for a theme that represents your brand well and makes it easy for readers to find what they are looking for on your site.

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About the Author -

Blogging since 2010, John has found his true calling as TheBlogPilot. He's a serial entrepreneur and business owner, who's mission is to help ambitious individuals find financial freedom through blogging - to start, grow & build a sustainable, money-making blogging business!

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